Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory.
The overlaid sensory information can be constructive (i.e., additive to the natural environment) or destructive (i.e., masking the natural environment) and seamlessly interwoven with the physical world. It is perceived as an immersive aspect of the natural environment.
In contrast to virtual reality, which replaces the user’s real-world environment with a simulated one, augmented reality modifies one’s continuous perspective of a real-world environment. Mixed reality and computer-mediated reality are the two words that are related to augmented reality but are interchangeable.
The primary value of augmented reality is that it brings components of the digital world into a person’s perception of the natural world and does so not as a simple display of data but through the integration of immersive sensations that are perceived as genuine parts of an environment. The first functional AR systems that provided immersive mixed reality experiences for users were invented in the early 1990s, starting with the Virtual Fixtures system developed at the U.S. Air Force’s Armstrong Laboratory in 1992The first commercial augmented reality experiences were used mainly in the entertainment and gaming businesses. Still, other industries are also getting interested in AR’s possibilities, for example, in knowledge sharing, educating, managing the information flood, and organizing distant meetings.
Augmented reality is also transforming the world of education, where content may be accessed by scanning or viewing an image with a mobile device. Another example is an AR helmet for construction workers, which displays information about construction sites.
Augmented reality enhances natural environments or situations and offers perceptually enriched experiences. Information about the environment and its objects is overlaid in the real world. This information can be virtually accurate. Seeing other real sensed or measured information such as electromagnetic radio waves overlaid in exact alignment with where they are in space. With the help of advanced AR technologies (e.g., adding computer vision and object recognition), the information about the surrounding real world the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulable.
Augmentation techniques are typically performed in real-time and semantic contexts with environmental elements. Immersive perceptual information is sometimes combined with supplemental information like scores over a live video feed of a sporting event. This combines the benefits of both augmented reality technology and heads-up display technology (HUD). Augmented reality also has a lot of potential for gathering and sharing tacit knowledge.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual reality (VR) is an interactive computer-generated experience in a simulated environment that incorporates mainly auditory and visual and other types of sensory feedback like haptic. This immersive environment can be similar to the real world or fantastical, creating an impossible experience in ordinary physical reality. Augmented reality systems may also be considered a form of VR that layers virtual information over a live camera feed into a headset or through a smartphone or tablet device, giving the user the ability to view three-dimensional images.
A person using virtual reality equipment can “look around” the artificial world, move around, and interact with virtual features or items. Current VR technology most commonly uses virtual reality headsets or multi-projected environments, sometimes in combination with physical backdrops or props, to generate realistic images, sounds, and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment. The effect is commonly created by VR headsets consisting of a head-mounted display with a small screen in front of the eyes, but it can also be made through specially designed rooms with multiple large screens.
VR systems that transmit vibrations and other sensations to the user through a game controller or other devices are known as haptic systems. This tactile information is generally known as force feedback in medical, video gaming, and military training applications.
The Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML), first introduced in 1994, was intended to develop “virtual worlds” without dependency on headsets. The Web3D consortium was founded in 1997 to establish industry standards for web-based 3D graphics. The consortium subsequently developed X3D from the VRML framework as an archival, open-source standard for web-based distribution of VR content. All modern VR displays are based on technology developed for smartphones, including gyroscopes and motion sensors for tracking head, hand, and body positions; small HD screens for stereoscopic displays; and small, lightweight and fast processors.
Independent production of VR images and video has increased with the development of omnidirectional cameras, also known as 360-degree cameras or VR cameras, that can record in all directions, although at low resolutions or in highly compressed formats for online streaming of 360 videos. In contrast, photogrammetry is increasingly used to combine several high-resolution photographs to create complex 3D objects and environments in VR applications. These components led to relative affordability for independent VR developers and the 2012 Oculus Rift Kickstarter offering the first independently developed VR headset.
How do they work together?
It is not always virtual reality vs. augmented reality. They do not continuously operate independently and are often blended to generate an even more immersive experience. For example, haptic feedback- the vibration and sensation added to interaction with graphics- is considered an augmentation. However, it is commonly used within a virtual reality setting to make the experience more lifelike through touch.
Virtual and augmented reality are great examples of experiences and interactions fueled by the desire to immerse in a simulated land for entertainment and play or to add a new dimension of interaction between digital devices and the real world. Alone or blended, they are undoubtedly opening up worlds-both real and virtual.
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